Hall schools adjust to rise in COVID cases

By Marc Eggers Anchor / Reporter
Posted 1:24PM on Tuesday 15th December 2020 ( 2 months ago )

The Hall County School District has now added Riverbend Elementary School to the list of schools that will move to a blended learning format for the remainder of the week. As of Tuesday afternoon, RBES was the only elementary school impacted by COVID-19 absences enough to prompt the closure of the building for in-person learning. School district officials continue to monitor the rate of absenteeism

The last day of school prior to the holiday break is Friday, Dec. 18. 

Original story Mon., Dec. 14 7:24 p.m.

GAINESVILLE – Effective Wednesday, December 16, all Hall County School District middle and high school students will shift to blended learning exclusively. That change is effective for the remainder of the week.

There will be no change for elementary students according to Hall County School Superintendent Will Schofield.

In a media release issued Monday afternoon Schofield said, "Elementary school students will continue to follow the in-person instructional model. The district will continue to monitor elementary school numbers and communicate with principals daily to ensure safety and functionality.”

At Monday evening's Hall County Board of Education meeting Schofield told school board members about the plans for the district’s elementary schools.   “We’ll be able to use some support from our middle and high schools to make sure we’re fully staffed and safe at our elementary schools.”

Schofield said that dealing with COVID-19 in the school district is, "...a fluid situation", but lately that fluid situation is more like running whitewater rapids than floating on a tranquil pond.

One of the primary reasons for the need to change the middle and high school format is the rise of COVID-19 cases among the adult staff members, not necessarily among the students.

Schofield said, “We see COVID numbers increasing to the point that we’re having difficulties with the quarantines, having enough adults at the middle and high schools to effectively carry out instruction.”

Also affected in the near term are extra-curricular activities.  "All Hall County School District extra-curricular activities will switch to a 'maximum two tickets per participant rule' until further notice. No general admission tickets will be sold to the public. This will also apply to the Lanierland basketball tournament. All activities are subject to change based on current conditions," Schofield said in his release.

“This is until further notice,” Schofield told board members.

In addition, once school resumes in January (after the holiday break) students and parents can expect changes as the new semester begins.

"The Hall County School District will utilize an A/B hybrid schedule January 5-8, 2021, to re-teach 200 Percent Accountability and to ensure we are in a position to deliver in-person instruction after the holiday break," Schofield said.

"Students whose last names begin with L-Z will report to their school on January 5 and 7. Those with last names beginning with A-K will report on January 6 and 8," Schofield explained.  Students not reporting to the school will have at-home learning that day.

The Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning, Kevin Bales, told board members, “That’s a flip-flop from the way we started the year.  A lot of our building leaders talk about it would nice to kind of balance out how we started the year, so that the L-Z group does not continue to get ‘cheated’ by being at home the very first day out of the gate.”   

Many students who have been learning from home are planning to return to campus when the new semester starts according to school officials, but should parents have a change of heart due to the rise in COVID cases, Bales said the district will work with families to do what is in their best interest.

The board also agreed unanimously to grant the Superintendent authority to make adjustments to the plan without first obtaining school board approval.  The school board is not scheduled to meet again until mid-January.

“That probably is a little bit beyond what we are supposed to do, but it’s the only way we can do it,” Schofield said about receiving the increased authority.

(Hall County Board of Education online meeting.)

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